Livestock Exchange Building to Be Restored

Denver’s historic Livestock Exchange Building, built in 1916 and located within the future National Western Center (NWC), will be rehabbed to feature a mix of office and meeting spaces, with a focus on food and agriculture organizations, according NWC officials. The building is a key part of the local agricultural heritage and one of the few remaining structures that represents the administrative, financial, regulatory and social hub of the livestock trade for most of the 20th century.

The Denver-based partners—EXDO Development, Elevation Development Group, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the nonprofit NWC—intend “to bring the building back to its rightful place at the forefront of the region’s food industry,” says NWC CEO Brad Buchanan. The new owners will apply for local landmark designation for the building. Although the Livestock Exchange Building will be privately owned in the middle of the largely publicly owned NWC campus, its main floors will be accessible to the public. Future tenants will be expected to complement the center’s event venues and educational and research spaces, he says.

Pandemic Uncertainty Lingers for Most Industry Leaders

The first wave of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year did not hit the Mountain States as hard as other parts of the country, with construction deemed an essential activity and allowed to continue across the region. Contractors reported some project delays and cancellations, but most firms moved ahead with comfortable backlogs through the end of the year. But now that the year is ending and the pandemic continues to surge, some regional leaders are feeling less optimistic.

“Even in booming Idaho, the effects of the pandemic are hard to escape,” says Wayne Hammon, CEO, Idaho AGC. “Contractors across the Gem State have seen multiple public work contracts either canceled, delayed or significantly scaled back as local units of government worry about lagging tax revenue.” But, he says, the state’s housing market “remains at an all-time high” while public construction has slowed.

“COVID-19 has to be the issue of 2020, but we believe Utah has been well managed, and our industry has been diligent in following CDC, Utah Leads Together and other health guidelines,” says Rich Thorn, AGC of Utah president and CEO. He points to the on-time completion and 2020 opening of the new Salt Lake City Airport and construction of the association’s new training center, among other achievements, as evidence that the state’s contracting industry is still on track despite some pandemic setbacks.

“Contractor volumes and backlogs have been good, but firms are still having a major issue with skilled workforce. In some cases, that’s the single largest challenge our contractors are having,” Thorn says.

In Colorado, the construction industry has been hurt by cuts to state and local capital construction budgets, says Michael Gifford, president and CEO of AGC of Colorado. “Plus, restaurant and hotel closures have reduced sales tax and tourism tax revenue that could be used for bonding and P3 funding for major projects like National Western Center or new private hotels or the convention center upgrade,” he says.

Add to that the extra costs of COVID-19 compliance on jobs that were already in progress and the difficulty of getting building and other inspections on projects because of COVID-19 concerns, Gifford says.

Russ Hanson, executive vice president AGC of North Dakota, says, “We have been very fortunate with our construction projects never ceasing on a large scale due to COVID. Our member companies did a great job to adapt and keep crews consistently working. In addition, our spring, summer and autumn were all ideal weather conditions for project completions.”

For many industry leaders, the key issue is uncertainty about what’s ahead.

“Many firms expect this recession to last 18 to 24 months, starting at the end of this year,” says Katie Legerski, executive director, AGC of Wyoming. “Many projects are on hold or it’s unknown if they will get the go-ahead to start as companies are holding back on large capital expenditures. We are just now starting to see delays in permitting and contractual matters from state agencies due to budget shortfalls,” she says.

The latest jobs report didn’t help the industry’s lack of confidence. Construction employment increased by 27,000 jobs in November, according to the federal government, and the good news is that residential building and specialty trade contractors added 15,4000 jobs last month. Those groups have now recouped 96% of the employment losses incurred in March and April.

But the disparity between the residential and nonresidential sectors has widened, with significantly slower job growth on the nonresidential side, which added only 11,900 jobs nationwide in November and recovered only 56% of the jobs lost in March and April. The industry’s unemployment rate in November was 7.3%, compared with 4.4% a year ago.

“The construction industry recovered a bit in November, but the future is far from certain for the industry,” says Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America.

Stantec Providing Engineering Services for Bridges in Dakotas

Design firm Stantec was selected by the North Dakota Dept. of Transportation to provide engineering-design services for three bridge projects over the Maple River. The projects include replacement of two bridges on I-94 and one on ND 10 as well as construction of two median crossovers for traffic control on I-94 during bridge construction.

 Stantec will work in partnership with the state bridge office on preliminary utility coordination and engineering, roadway design, right-of way acquisition, support of environmental documentation and permitting, roadway hydraulics as well as design for the median crossovers.

In South Dakota, Stantec is currently supporting the South Dakota Dept. of Transportation with engineering services to preserve the Keystone Wye Bridges. The assessment and restoration process will protect the iconic gateway into the Black Hills and lay out a path for future preservation.

McKinstry, University of Idaho Establish Innovative P3 Utility Contract

McKinstry has expanded its partnership with the University of Idaho through a public-private partnership involving the long-term lease to operate the university’s utility energy system. The 50-year agreement, a first of its kind for McKinstry, is between the University of Idaho and Sacyr Plenary Utility Partners Idaho LLC, which, in turn, hired McKinstry to manage the utility system.

“Our solid partnership with the University of Idaho over the past 15 years led to this exciting opportunity to manage their steam plant and utility systems.”

– Mike Porter, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, McKinstry

That includes chilled water, steam and condensate, electrical distribution, domestic water, compressed air, stormwater, sanitary sewer and reclaimed water.

In addition to becoming the utility plant operator, McKinstry will develop and deliver capital projects associated with campus utilities. The firm also will work with the university to support its goal of carbon neutrality and energy independence across the campus.

The University of Idaho joins the University of Iowa and Ohio State University in providing stability and consistency for investors, management and the university through P3 agreements for their utility systems.

Ambient Energy’s Denver Office Earns WELL Silver Certification

Ambient Energy, a third-party consulting firm specializing in commissioning, energy analysis and sustainable design, has received WELL Silver Certification for its Denver office space. The company is one of only six in Colorado to achieve the certification. The certification is awarded by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).

WELL is a performance-based certification system that marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based scientific research. Ambient Energy earned the designation based on 10 categories of performance—air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind and community.

Sundt Construction Launches New Renewable Energy Firm

Sundt Construction Inc. has expanded its presence in the renewable energy market with the launch of Sundt Renewables LLC. Before forming the new subsidiary, Sundt acquired assets and key personnel from i1 Energy, a well-known firm in the renewable power market. Sundt Renewables will focus on utility-scale solar and energy-storage projects across the U.S., with a heavy emphasis on the Southwest and Texas.

Sundt Renewables is led by a trio of solar industry veterans and entrepreneurs who founded and grew i1 Energy. They include Tom Dodson as managing director, Topher Wood as vice president and business development manager and Bobby Batista, i1 Energy’s third co-founder and now vice president, engineering director, who along with Dodson and Wood, brings more than 10 years of solar project experience to the firm.

“Sundt Renewables brings something unique to the solar industry: the specialized knowledge of a niche contractor combined with the size and strength of a large builder,” said G. Michael Hoover, Sundt CEO and chairman. “The renewable energy market is poised for significant and sustained long-term growth as society continues to shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.”   

Yellowstone Park Will Launch Autonomous Shuttles in May

Yellowstone Park officials will deploy the first autonomous shuttles in portions of the park starting in May, working in conjunction with the National Parks Service (NPS). Park officials have contracted with Beep, a Florida-based firm, in a pilot program to test multipassenger, electric, automated vehicles in Yellowstone’s Canyon Village. Beep will provide a full suite of services for the pilot program, including the autonomous vehicles, engineering and mapping of routes and complete operational, monitoring and management to help support ridership demand.

 The use of 100% electric, autonomous shuttles with zero emissions aligns with the park’s priority to improve visitor safety, access and experience. The pilot will be supported and monitored by an onboard shuttle specialist, on-the-ground staff and Beep’s global command center to ensure safe and reliable operation.

AGC of Colorado Opens Colorado Springs Office 

The Associated General Contractors of Colorado has opened a new Colorado Springs office to provide area construction firms with advocacy, education, networking and workforce development services and to further strengthen AGC/C’s partnership with the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs. The alliance was formed five years ago to provide training for high school construction trade programs and now serves 20 high schools and 2,000 students in the Colorado Springs area. 

Pinyon Environmental Opens Office in Northern Colorado

Colorado-based environmental consulting firm Pinyon Environmental Inc. recently opened its fourth office. Located at 1635 Foxtail Drive in Loveland, Pinyon chose the new location to expand its accessibility to clients and allow the firm to respond more quickly to client needs as well as reduce project costs.